The beginning of drafts are often dominated by first baseman and outfielders, and this year is no exception.
It’s obviously important to nail your picks at the beginning of drafts, which makes first base a very important position and it is vital to avoid drafting a potential first base bust.
Paul Goldschmidt should be a Top 3 pick in nearly any format. We all know the risks, but also the upside associated with drafting Miguel Cabrera.
After that, there is the usual list of names, with some being risks due to their increasing age, injury concerns, or lack of talent around them in the lineup.
With that said, here are the first base busts that I would steer clear of this season, whether it be because of their ADP, relatively advanced age, or just the skill set they have.
First Base Busts
Mixed League Busts
Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
Calling Rizzo a bust is all about the value and potential upside of taking him as the 10th player off the board as is currently happening in NFBC drafts. Of course, the Cubs should have a monstrous lineup with the likes of Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant, and Rizzo himself constituting the middle of the lineup. With that said, there are several players taken behind him that I would prefer to build my team around due to both their higher floor and upside in some cases: Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen, Mookie Betts, and Jose Abreu.
So why is Rizzo being listed as one of my first base busts? While Rizzo did seem to have a better approach at the plate last year, as his strikeout rate reached a career best as did his on base percentage, his power numbers are the main concern. Last season his HR/FB rate fell nearly four points and needed his fly ball percentage to climb two percent to get over 30 home runs last season.
If that trend continues, his average will take a hit due to the high amount of fly balls Rizzo will hit, and if he hits more ground balls, he doesn’t have enough power in his swing to provide elite production in the home run category. Rizzo will rack up stats and is a very good player, but I simply don’t see first round value in his profile and for that reason he is set to be one my first bases busts this season.
Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers
The short summary of picking Adrian Gonzalez as a bust is that his age has to catch up with him at some point in his career and I don’t want to be the one stuck with him as my first baseman when it does. Add in the high price that Gonzalez is currently pegged at in NFBC drafts, the eighth first baseman and 70th overall pick, and I’m staying far away in 2016 and beyond. The stats don’t raise red flags, however, as Gonzalez’s HR/FB rate has increased each of the past four seasons and his average fly ball distance has been excellent each of those seasons.
Contrarily, there is plenty of research done that shows power drops considerably as a player reaches their 30s. Though there are plenty of top ranked first baseman (or designated hitters) in their 30s who are currently being taken at premium spots in drafts right now; Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Miguel Cabrera, and Joey Votto to name a few.
Gonzalez scares me the most due to the combination of his age and relative lack of power. Unlike Pujols, Ortiz, or Cabrera, if Gonzalez’s power drops off in the slightest, you are likely to have a first baseman who hits less than 20 home runs and whose batting average has steadily dropped for the past four seasons. Both Pujols and Ortiz offer elite power, while Votto will provide an elite batting average if his power slips. Gonzaelz doesn’t offer a safe floor in either.
In the 2015 season, Gonzalez finished as the 14th ranked first baseman on the ESPN Player Rater and in his best case scenario, will reach the fringes of Top 12 status this season. If I miss out on the most elite first baseman, I’ll shy away from Gonzalez and instead look to solidify other positions while targeting first baseman later in the draft such as Freddie Freeman, Lucas Duda, Brandon Belt, or even Mitch Moreland.
Adam Lind, Seattle Mariners
Adam Lind enjoyed a very successful 2015 campaign, but the trade that sent him to the Mariners in early December effectively crossed him off my list of potential Fantasy picks in 2016. Lind was never a prototypical power hitting first baseman to begin with as indicated by his HR/FB rate of 14.4 over the past three seasons, good for 23rd best among first baseman in that time span.
Those numbers happened in hitter friendly parks such as Miller Park and Rogers Centre. Now he goes to Safeco Field where the park factor for lefties isn’t as bad as some might expect, but it’s still not the same hitters haven that he had as a Blue Jay and Brewer. Even last year’s home run production can be called into question as ESPN Home Run Tracker characterized six of his 20 home runs last season as “just enough” and one as “lucky.”
All of these concerns don’t even bring up Lind’s extreme platoon split that he has carried throughout his career, which includes an abysmal .586 OPS and only 21 HRs in 1,004 plate appearances against left-handed pitching.
The Mariners know this and seemingly have a platoon ready option in Jesus Montero, who is a right-handed batter that has a career .292 average and .770 OPS against left-handed pitching. Therefore, not only will Lind likely struggle to hit for power at Safeco, but he will also likely lose at-bats, which makes him a player to steer clear of.
While some of these players are household names in the Fantasy world, they are listed as first base busts for reasons I just outlined. There are a number of other players that can be drafted later that will provide similar or better results over the long haul.
Deep League Busts
Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
Mauer is the 27th first baseman off the board in NFBC drafts and the 14th from the American League. This is mind blowing to me as he has been close to worthless as a Fantasy asset since 2013. Neither his counting stats nor peripheral stats are much of a cause for optimism as his strikeout rate rose above 15-percent for the first time in his career 2013, and has not fallen below that rate since.
His HR/FB rate has been in the double digits two of the past three seasons, but he doesn’t hit enough fly balls to hit many home runs and the result is 14 home runs combined in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Speed has never been a big part of Mauer’s game, which makes it difficult to see what category Mauer may provide value in.
Other first baseman around Mauer’s draft position certainly aren’t exciting, but they offer upside in one category or more, which is more than can be said for Mauer. For example, Mike Napoli and Adam LaRoche are the 31st and 33rd first baseman, respectively, off the board and both should provide some nice power to your team.
Matt Adams, St. Louis Cardinals
I was actually a big fan of Adams entering last season and I advocated that he could put up similar numbers as Freddie Freeman. Obviously that didn’t work out and there are now concerning trends emerging in his game, with games missed due to injury being at the forefront.
He has had injury concerns every season in the majors. Injuries aren’t the only concern for Adams’ playing time however, as Brandon Moss remains on the Cardinals roster and will likely fight for at-bats at first base. Even when Adams is on the field, his performance doesn’t provide a whole lot of Fantasy value as he hasn’t delivered on his seemingly vast power potential.
The going price isn’t incredibly high on Adams, which is why it is hard to put him on this list. He is currently the 11th first baseman from the National League off the board in NFBC drafts. However, there are intriguing players taken after him, with Chris Carter highlighting the list. While he is nearly certain to hurt your average, Carter is locked in at first base with the Brewers and provides much more power potential than Adams.
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